When I joined the military I had absolutely no idea about life, credit cards, or cooking. Although I still can’t cook, a decade later and I’ve figured out a few things about life. As for credit cards? Don’t even ask me how many I’ve got.
I first began learning about points and miles while I was still active duty, and I quickly realized that, while banks such as Chase and Citi all grant perks to service members, nobody matches the benefits that American Express offers to all active-duty military members.
In this guide, we’re going to break down all the best credit cards American Express has for its customers, what they offer, and why you should get them. What’s stopping you?
Which Credit Cards Waive Annual Fees for Military Members?
Everyone hates annual fees. It’s a given. Luckily for service members, all the major banks will waive annual fees for their credit cards. Chase, Citi, Capital One, and American Express all waive their fees as a matter of course. Discover, meanwhile, only offers fee-free credit cards, but has gone an extra step and capped the interest rate on its credit cards to 5.9%, which is exorbitantly generous.
American Express isn’t quite that big-hearted, but it does offer something that other banks won’t: waived annual fees on both its business and consumer credit cards. Why is that important? Because if you’ve got a small business, you can effectively double the number of credit cards you’re able to hold.
This is especially beneficial for cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, both of which have hefty annual fees and offer different benefits that are equally worthwhile.
How to Request Benefits (Do This After You’re Approved)
Log into your Amex Platinum card account online and then select Account Services at the top of the page. From there, select Credit Management and choose SCRA Benefits.
You can upload any requested information after answering a few questions.
Additionally, you can request benefits via the following methods:
- Phone: Call 800-253-1720 from the U.S. or call 336-393-1111 collect from outside of the U.S.
- Fax: Fax the required documents to 623-444-3000 and include your American Express account numbers
- Mail: Mail documents with your account numbers to American Express, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, P.O. Box 981535, El Paso, TX 79998-1535
Amex will verify your information and subsequently process the benefit, which can take up to a few weeks. You can also check your eligibility before you apply for the card here.
Why Is American Express the Best for Military Members?
So it’s true that American Express will waive annual fees for military members on both its consumer and business credit cards. That’s good, but what really makes American Express stand out as the best option is the sheer volume of high-end credit and charge cards it offers.
Of course, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is renowned for its bonus categories and the Citi Prestige® Card is excellent for offering a fourth-night free on hotel stays, but these cards are the outliers for these banks, which focus more on mid-level cards such as The World of Hyatt Credit Card or the Citi Premier℠ Card. Both of these cards provide reasonable benefits for their sub-$100 annual fee, but can’t compare to Amex’s offerings.
We’ve already mentioned the Amex Platinum card and the Amex Business Platinum card, but did you know there are other variants of the Amex Platinum card? The American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab offers all of the same benefits as the regular Amex Platinum card in addition to its perks, while The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Morgan Stanley has the same features but can even put some cash directly into your pocket. There’s also the American Express® Gold Card, and its business version, a green card, a blue card, and even a black card. There’s a veritable rainbow of cards.
Amex’s advantage doesn’t stop at its own cards, though. Thanks to its excellent partnerships, American Express also offers co-branded credit cards from Delta, Hilton, and Marriott. Each of these, in turn, offers several different levels of benefits depending on how much of an annual fee you’ll tolerate.
Unless you’re an active-duty service member, that is.
Having all Amex annual fees waived unlocks the most premium of credit cards to all soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. These cards are on an entirely different level, offering thousands of dollars per year in statement credits, top-tier elite status, free companion flights on first class tickets, and annual free nights at prestigious hotels. American Express also waives late fees, over-limit fees, returned payment fees, and statement copy request fees for active-duty military.
How Many American Express Cards Can You Have?
Like all banks, Amex limits the number of cards each member can hold at once. For Amex, this means you can hold up to 4 credit cards and 10 charge cards. These numbers include both personal and business cards.
What’s the difference between a credit and a charge card? A credit card, like the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, has a fixed credit limit. Once you’ve maxed it out, that’s it. You’re able to pay off a credit card over many months, though you’ll be on the hook for any interest you incur.
Now, let’s take a look at all the best cards for the military that American Express has to offer.
The Best Personal American Express Cards for Military Members
Amex Platinum Card (Top Pick)
This is probably the most obvious card choice for people, and for good reason. If you’re only looking to get one card (which you shouldn’t — take advantage of all those benefits!), then the Amex Platinum card is your best bet. Why? Because it offers a whole host of perks across for airlines, hotels, shopping, and even rideshare programs. This includes statement credits, elite status, and lounge access, all in a single card.
Amex Platinum Card Annual Benefits
These reset each calendar year. Be aware that some are annual while others are biannual or even monthly, so you’ll need to make sure you spend them before time runs out. Terms apply and enrollment may be required, so be sure to check your American Express account!
- Up to $200 Hotel Credit in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your card.
- Up to $240 Digital Entertainment Credit (up to $20 back each month) on eligible purchases made with your card on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
- Up to $300 Equinox Credit given as a $25 statement credit each month on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your card. Enrollment required.
- $189 CLEAR Credit when paying with your card get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR membership.
- Up to $200 airline fee credit covers incidentals like seat upgrades, checked baggage, and paid lounge access
- Up to $200 Uber Cash offered at $15 each month, with an additional $20 bonus offered in December for a total of $35
- Up to $100 Saks Fifth Avenue credit issued as a $50 statement credit every 6 months
- Up to $100 Global Entry or $85 TSA PreCheck credit valid once every 5 years
- Up to $155 annual Walmart+ Credit pays for your monthly Walmart+ membership, which includes discounts on gas and free shipping, among other benefits.
As you can see, right out the gate you’re eligible to receive $500 in value each year, with an additional $85 to $100 once every 5 years, all for nothing out of pocket.
Additional Amex Platinum Card Benefits
While statement credits are nice, the Amex Platinum card also offers tons more benefits, and while there is no direct cash comparison for these, depending on how often you use them you could find yourself with hundreds of dollars in perks. Even if you’re not interested in the reward travel game, points can be redeemed for things like cash and gift cards, though they’re most valuable when transferred to a partner and used for travel. Throw in elite status and lounge access, and this card becomes invaluable:
- Accelerated Points Earning — Earn 5x points on flights booked directly with an airline or via Amex Travel, 5x points on prepaid hotels via Amex Travel, and 1x point on everything else.
- Global Lounge Access — Access over 1,300 lounges around the world, including Centurion Lounges that feature amenities like free massages and wine tastings.
- Hilton Honors Gold Elite Status — Receive free breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in, late checkout, and increased earnings on bonus points, among other benefits.
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status — Get early check-in, late checkout, room upgrades, and increased earnings on bonus points, in addition to other benefits.
- Rental Car Elite Status — Enjoy status with National, Hertz, and Avis that entitles you to discounts, car upgrades, and waived fees, though these vary by company.
- Access to Fine Hotels & Resorts and the Hotel Collection — When booked with Amex Travel, you’ll earn 5x points on your hotel stay and receive perks such as a $100 food and beverage credit on your stay, third-night free on your bookings, free breakfast, room upgrades, and more.
Bottom Line: Our complete guide to Amex Platinum card benefits for active-duty U.S. military members details the thousands of dollars you could enjoy in complimentary benefits.
American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab
While you need to have a Charles Schwab account to qualify for this card, it’s easy to sign up. This version of the Amex Platinum card has all the same benefits as the regular Amex Platinum card that we’ve outlined above — with 1 big caveat.
Unlike the plain Amex Platinum card, you can cash out your Membership Rewards points at a rate of 1.1 cents per point directly to your bank account. This is especially valuable if you’re not interested in award travel, as you won’t need to redeem points against any purchases or waste them on gift cards.
Check out how this card compares to the regular Amex Platinum card in our head-to-head matchup.
The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Morgan Stanley
If you can swing it, the Amex Platinum card for Morgan Stanley is potentially one of the most valuable cards you can have. That’s because, in addition to the benefits of the standard Amex Platinum card, those who open a Morgan Stanley Cash Plus account receive a $550 engagement bonus each year. This would normally cover the annual fee of the Amex Platinum card, but with yours waived, that money goes directly into your pocket.
Be aware, however, that the Cash Plus account carries a $45 monthly fee unless you meet certain qualifications: $5,000 in monthly transfers and a $25,000 average cash balance. That’s pretty steep, but Morgan Stanley broadly defines monthly transfers to include Zelle deposits and mobile checks, which makes the $5,000 per month feasible.
Bottom Line: If you can otherwise afford to keep an average of $25,000 in your account, you’ll get yourself $550 each year in addition to the thousands of dollars of regular Amex Platinum card benefits and a free authorized user — something else no other Amex Platinum card offers.
Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
Perhaps one of our favorite cards, the Hilton Aspire card offers top-tier Diamond elite status simply for being a cardholder. You won’t find that with other competitors such as Marriott, IHG, or Hyatt, all of which offer mid-level status on their own co-branded credit cards. That’s not all, though. The Hilton Aspire card features benefits that can be worth thousands of dollars each year.
Hilton Aspire Card Annual Benefits
Unlike the Amex Platinum card, the Hilton Aspire card’s benefits are all annual:
- $250 airline fee credit to use on incidentals like checked luggage, inflight purchase, and seat upgrades; based on the calendar year
- $250 Hilton resort credit that can be used for incidentals or room rates at any of Hilton’s participating resorts (advanced purchase and non-refundable room rates don’t qualify); based on your cardmember anniversary
- Free weekend night certificate valid at nearly any Hilton property; based on your cardmember anniversary
In case we haven’t hammered this home enough, all of the Hilton Aspire card benefits come via a credit card whose annual fee is waived for active-duty service members. That means that the $720 in direct credits and free night certificate — redeemable at properties like the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, where room rates can cost more than $2,000 per night— will cost you nothing out of pocket.
Additional Hilton Aspire Card Benefits
- Hilton Honors Diamond Status — You’ll enjoy room upgrades (including suites), early-check in, late checkout, free breakfast, increased earnings on bonus points, and executive lounge access.
- Priority Pass Membership — Access 1,300+ airport lounges around the world and bring in up to 2 guests for free.
- Second Weekend Night Certificate — Earn a second free night certificate by spending $60,000 in a calendar year.
- $100 On-Property Credit — Use this credit on incidentals when you book a 2-night paid stay at either Waldorf Astoria or Conrad properties.
Hot Tip: American Express Priority Pass memberships no longer offer access to non-lounge experiences, like restaurants.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
The Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program has gone through some pretty significant changes in recent years as the company has done its best to integrate the Starwood Preferred Guest program with its own. When all the dust settled, one of the best things to come out of the fray was the debut of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, whose usually hefty annual fee comes with some major Marriott perks.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Annual Benefits
- $300 credit for Marriott purchases (incidentals or room rates) usable at any Marriott property
- Free night certificate usable any night of the week at properties up to 50,000 points; can be used for hundreds of dollars in value when applied to an off-peak Category 7 hotel
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit valid once every 4 years
Although the list of direct cash perks is smaller than the Hilton Aspire card, the extremely generous $300 credit isn’t limited to resort properties and its free night certificate can be used no matter what day it is. That makes both of these benefits extremely valuable and well-worth the annual-fee-waived slot in your wallet.
Additional Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card Benefits
- Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status — You’ll get late checkout, room upgrades, and increased earnings on bonus points, in addition to other benefits.
- $100 On-Property Credit — When booking a paid stay of at least 2 nights at Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis properties, you’ll receive a $100 credit for incidentals that can be used for things like food, drinks, and spa services.
- Priority Pass Membership — You and 2 guests can access airport lounges around the world, with additional guests costing $32 each.
- Elite Night Credits — Receive 15 elite night credits each year to help accelerate your track to a higher status.
Hot Tip: You don’t have to just redeem your points for hotel stays — Marriott Bonvoy has over 40 airline transfer partners! Check out our guide to the best ways to redeem your Marriott Bonvoy points for flights.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
While the Delta Reserve card isn’t as generous with its credits as Amex’s co-branded hotel cards, the card does offer some serious perks. Its main one? A companion certificate on domestic flights that’ll allow you to bring someone for just the taxes and fees.
Delta Reserve Card Annual Benefits
- Companion certificate issued after your account anniversary each year, valid for round-trip travel within the contiguous 48 states (even in first class!)
- 2 Delta Sky Club guest passes issued when opening the card and reissued each year after account renewal, making them a great addition to your companion certificate
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit valid once every 4 years for Global Entry and every 4.5 years for TSA PreCheck
Depending on how you use the companion certificate, it can easily net you a thousand dollars in savings (especially on those pricey transcontinental flights), though you’ll still need to pay your own fare.
Additional Delta Reserve Card Benefits
- Delta Sky Club Access — You and any authorized users can access the Sky Club and Centurion Lounges on same-day Delta flights.
- First Checked Bag Free — This benefit is valid for you and up to 8 companions on your reservation.
- Priority Boarding — You and 8 companions can board with the Main Cabin 1 group, even in Basic Economy.
- Upgrade List — This is especially valuable if you’re not an elite member because as a cardholder you’ll still be added to the complimentary upgrade list.
- Discount on Delta Purchases — Save 20% on prepurchased and inflight food, drinks, and headsets for your Delta flight.
- Earn Medallion Qualifying Miles — If you’re chasing elite status, you can earn 15,000 MQMs by spending $30,000 in a calendar year, with 15,000 more granted at $60,000, $90,000, and $120,000 in spending, for a total of 60,000 MQMs.
- Waived Medallion Qualifying Dollars Requirement — Spend $25,000 on this card in a qualifying year to waive the MQD requirement for Platinum, Gold, and Silver status.
Amex Gold Card
Although less famous than its Platinum counterparts, the Amex Gold card offers its own slew of benefits that make it worth having. Notably, it offers a best-in-class bonus category for grocery purchases, which puts this firmly into the must-own for any family. It also boasts 4x bonus points at restaurants, a feature beaten only by the Citi Prestige card. Combined, the ability to stack up points on these common purchases makes this card essential in your everyday wallet.
Amex Gold Card Annual Benefits
- Up to $120 dining credit valid for $10 each month when used at Grubhub, Seamless, Boxed, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, The Cheesecake Factory, and participating Shake Shack restaurants
The Gold card isn’t quite as flashy as others, but the dining credit makes for a nice perk on those days you can’t be bothered to cook.
Additional Amex Gold Card Benefits
- 4x bonus points on groceries at U.S. supermarkets for the first $25,000 each year, then 1x points
- 4x points at restaurants and 3x points on flights booked directly with the airline or via Amex Travel
- Access to the Hotel Collection
The Best Business American Express Cards for Military Members
If you’ve got a small business, you can potentially score extra benefits (and credits!) by snapping up Amex’s premium business cards in addition to your personal cards. As mentioned previously— and relentlessly repeated— Amex will waive the annual fees for military members for personal as well as business cards, so it’s a no-brainer to pick these up.
Amex Business Platinum Card
The Amex Platinum card and its business version, the Amex Business Platinum, share most features, such as the annual airline credit and bonus points on flights, but there are a few key differences that the Amex Business Platinum card has to offer. Notably, the card offers 1.5x for eligible purchases on your Card made at U.S. construction material and hardware suppliers, at U.S. electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and at U.S. shipping providers as well as on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more everywhere else (up to $2 million in purchases per calendar year). This is especially beneficial for non-bonused spending such as payment of taxes or tuition.
Amex Business Platinum Card Annual Benefits
- Up to $400 Dell statement credit. You can get $200 in statement credits from January to June and another $200 in statement credits from July to December.
- Up to $200 airline fee credit for incidentals
- Up to $150 with Adobe
- Up to $120 in wireless cell phone credits
- Up to $360 at Indeed
If you play your cards right you’ll be getting $600 each year in direct credits with your Amex Business Platinum card. Don’t let Dell’s website fool you, either — there are tons of awesome things to buy at Dell within its seemingly endless depths. I’ve used mine to buy a Roomba and a Fitbit, both of which I use daily.
Additional Amex Business Platinum Card Benefits
The remaining benefits are the nearly same as the consumer version of the card, which we’ve outlined below:
- 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked via Amex Travel
- 1.5x points on eligible purchases in key business categories, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else (cap applies)
- 35% Pay with Points rebate when using Membership Rewards on Amex Travel, up to 1,000,000 points back per calendar year
- Global Lounge access
- Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy Gold elite status upon enrollment
- Rental car elite status
- Access to Fine Hotels & Resorts and the Hotel Collection
Hot Tip: Trying to decide between the Amex Platinum card and the Amex Business Platinum card? We stack each card’s benefits head to head in our detailed comparison.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
Like the consumer card, the Delta Reserve Business card offers plenty of perks. Because most of its benefits mirror that of the personal card, this card is most valuable if you’re trying to spend your way to Delta elite status, or can otherwise put the annual companion certificate to good use. Either way, a waived annual fee means keeping it won’t cost you a dime.
Delta Reserve Business Card Annual Benefits
- Companion certificate each card anniversary
- 2 Delta Sky Club guest passes
- Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit
Even if you use your companion certificate on a flight that only costs $200, that’s still $200 less you’ll need to pay than if you didn’t hold the card. And by making sure you switch your cell phone bill to your card, you’ll get a total of $220 off of your bill throughout the year.
Additional Delta Reserve Card Business Benefits
- Delta Sky Club and Centurion Lounge access
- First checked bag free for you and 8 companions
- Priority boarding for you and 8 companions
- Upgrade priority
- 20% discount on Delta purchases
- Earn Medallion Qualifying Miles
- Waived Medallion Qualifying Dollars requirement
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
Although there isn’t an ultra-premium business version of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant card, Amex does offer the Marriott Bonvoy Business card. This is definitely more a mid-tier card, but the free night certificate it gives you each year can still be worth hundreds of dollars.
Marriott Bonvoy Business Annual Benefits
- Free night certificate worth up to 35,000 points for use any night of the week
The certificate offered by the business card is the same offered by the Marriott Bonvoy American Express® Card (no longer open for new applications), which means if you hold all 3 co-branded Amex Marriott cards, you can turn your free nights into your own mini-vacation.
Additional Marriott Bonvoy Business Benefits
- Marriott Bonvoy Silver elite status will get you increased points earnings, late-check out, and a dedicated reservation line
- Additional free night certificate earned when you spend $60,000 on your card in a calendar year to earn a second certificate worth up to 35,000 points
- 15 elite night credits (these do not stack with other Marriott Bonvoy cards)
Are you in the military? Do you like money? Then there is absolutely no reason for you to skip out on Amex’s credit card offerings. With a vast array of premium cards, you’ll be receiving thousands of dollars a year in direct credits, along with a vast swathe of benefits like free plane tickets, top-tier elite status, and free hotel stays. Don’t miss out!
The information regarding the Citi Prestige® Card, Citi Premier℠ Card, American Express Platinum Card® for Schwab, The Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Morgan Stanley, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.